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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 January 2021

Revealed: the top 10 surveillance cities in the world

London breaks up dominance of Chinese and Indian metropolises in CCTV density ranking

Ever feel like "Big Brother is watching you"? Well, if you live in one of the top 10 surveillance cities in the world (revealed in gallery above), then you might be justified.

With planet Earth closing in on one billion surveillance cameras globally, CCTV density in the 130 most populous cities has been assessed by data firm Surfshark.

It will come as little surprise that China and India dominate the list; it may be more surprising that London is the only non-Asian city to appear in the top 10 with 399 CCTV cameras per square kilometre and 67.5 per 1,000 people.

The latter metric is particularly high - number one-placed Chennai (657 cameras per square kilometre) has a mere 25.5 cameras per 1,000 people.

Given the cities' roughly equivalent populations (London 9,304,016 and Chennai 10,971,108, according to World Urbanisation projects data) this can't be dismissed as a statistical quirk.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the UK as "freedom loving" in September, so the fact its capital has more CCTV cameras relative to area and population than Beijing will have Nineteen Eighty-Four author George Orwell spinning in his grave.

Why Chinese and Indian cities feature so heavily

Neither China nor India are renowned for their libertarian dispositions, meaning cherishing personal freedom isn't at the forefront of either political mindset.

Data show that there appears to be no correlation between CCTV density and crime rates

China's drive is more technologically motivated, however, with facial recognition systems integral to its proposed social points system. The Chinese database contains 1.3 billion pictures that can be matched to a face on a CCTV camera almost instantaneously.

India's motivation can be ascribed to a desire less for state control and more to combat the paradigm of mass urbanisation, rising crime and lack of resources.

Its burgeoning middle class is also wedded to the concept of surveillance as a form of protection, although statistics indicate this is misguided.

Data suggest no correlation between CCTV density and crime rate. The Chinese city of Taiyuan is the prime example with 120 cameras for every 1,000 people, yet with one of the highest rates of crime in the 130 countries ranked.

New York conspicuous by its absence from top 10

The United States is the self-styled "land of the free" – and when it comes to CCTV cameras, it appears to live up to the mantra.

The 54th-placed Big Apple has a paltry 26 cameras per square kilometre which works out at just 3.78 per 1,000 people. Los Angeles comes in at 63 in the rankings with 17.42 cameras per square kilometre – although this equates to slightly more cameras per 1,000 people than New York at 5.65.

Updated: January 6, 2021 02:13 PM

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